Wednesday will go in to the international break with a heavy weight on their shoulders after slumping to rock bottom in the Championship with a 1-0 defeat at a rejuvinated Sunderland side in front of a packed Stadium of Light.
It was another case of the Owls being left to rue missed chances despite the home side having much of the possession – but it wasn’t as if the Black Cats didn’t have chances of their own to wrap up the victory and make the win more emphatic.
Owls boss Paul Sturrock made some bold choices in his team selection with youngster Drew Talbot making his first start for the club for over 16 months with Deon Burton operating just behind him and Marcus Tudgay moving out to a wide right role.
Former Southampton midfielder Yoann Folly also came back in to the side following an injury to replace the much-improved Glenn Whelen who was missing with a virus. But defender Madjid Bougherra was fit to start despite suffering the same virus as Whelen.
Brad Jones was recalled in to goal after Chris Adamson deputised for the on-loan Middlesbrough stopper in the Owls crushing 2-1 defeat at home to Derby County last weekend.
The Owls came out of the traps the quickest and had the first attempt on goal when some neat build-up play lead to Chris Brunt firing a right-shot in to the bottom right hand corner but Sunderland stopper Chris Alnwick managed a comfortable save.
And Wednesday had a further chance minutes later as Marcus Tudgay headed down Burton O’Brien’s cross and Drew Talbot found himself unmarked in the Sunderland box but he failed to have a shot on goal and was eventually crowded out by the Sunderland defence.
The Wednesday efforts had sparked Sunderland in to life and Tobias Hysen sent a free header in to the arms of Jones after Nyron Nosworthy had supllied the defender with an inch-perfect cross.
And just seconds later Sunderland carved out another chance, Hysen this time the provider for former Owls loanee Murphy to fire a low shot straight in to the arms of Brad Jones.
The Mackems were well on top in the game and the only chance that fell to Wednesday was a Deon Burton strike from long range which failed to trouble Alnwick.
At the other end Dwight Yorke missed a guilt-edged chance after he was through one-on-one with Jones in the Wednesday goal but the former Manchester United and Aston Villa hitman dragged his shot well wide to the dismay of the majority of the 36,000 crowd – the highest so far in the Championship this season.
Danny Collins also saw a header go over the Wednesday bar while Murphy and Hysen also see further efforts go wide as Sunderland began to dominate proceedings but were met by a stubborn Wednesday defence led by Graham Coughlan and Madjid Bougherra.
Half Time: Sunderland 0-0 Wednesday
Paul Sturrock refused to make any changes at half-time despite the Owls coming under strong pressure from the hosts – especially towards the end of the half as Sunderland found their feet.
And the scond half continued in much the same vein as the first had finished with Sunderland dominating and creating the chances. This time captain Dean Whitehead broke free and surged towards the Owls goal but was unlucky to see his shot rattle off the post.
Former Celtic defender Stanislav Varga also saw a close-range headed effort go over the bar when he should have done better from a dubious Tobia Hysen free-kick from just outside the box.
Sunderland’s dominance finally paid off on 56 minutes when Nosworthy found former Mansfield man Liam Lawrence down the right hand side and he fed Grant Leadbitter who fired a low shot by Brad Jones to send the Stadium of Light in to raptures – and left Paul Sturrock wondered what to do to level matters.
The Owls boss changed his hand with Wade Small returning to the first-team after injury to replace the ineffective Deon Burton. Steve Adams and Steve Maclean also came on to replace the tired legs of Drew Talbot and Yoann Folly.
And within minutes the changes nearly paid off for the Owls as Steve Maclean picked up a Steve Adams ball to provide a deep cross for Marcus Tudgay. And the former Derby man should have done better than heading his close-range effort straight in to the hands of Alnwick.
And the Owls provided further chances before the end of the 90 minutes when Burton O’Brien volleyed at goal to produce a fine save from Alnwick, and Madjid Bougherra was inches away from netting the rebound but for some brave Sunderland defending.
Chris Brunt then saw a long-range effort flash wide of goal deep in injury-time – but the Owls couldn’t find the leveller and found themselves going in to the international break languishing at the bottom of the league.
Paul Sturrock told the SWFC site:
‘It’s a difficult place to come and, but for one zany moment when a defender didn’t put his foot through the ball, we’d have come back with a 0-0. We had a couple of early half-chances and, in the last 15 minutes, we created several.
‘They showed what they’re all about,’ said Sturrock, who said they will continue to obtain match sharpness in Wednesday afternoon’s reserve match. ‘And for the first time this season the bench had an influence on the game.
‘We’ve got two home games out of the next three – who knows what two wins can do for us? Our season is now condensed into 36 games and October 14th will be the start of a new season for us.’
Roy Keane told the SAFC site:
‘Some players have shown me a lot today. The keeper was disappointed last week and he made some good saves. Some lads have come in and played their first game in a long, long time, and they were good. I got the reaction I wanted. We couldn’t wait for this game to come round.
‘I thought the atmosphere was brilliant, I felt it before the game and credit to Sheffield Wednesday as well. Our fans understood the situation, we knew it was going to be difficult.
‘The fans were patient with the players. The players gave 100 per cent for the club and the fans would have been proud of that.
‘Fans forgive players when they give the ball away if they have been working back, tackling and playing for the shirt. We’ll relax for the next fews days and go from there. It was a good win.’